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The Primordial Wilds Of La Gomera

Approached on the ferry from Tenerife, La Gomera – the second smallest of the Canaries – looks like “the island of King Kong”, with its lush green mountainsides and “chimneys of volcanic lava” encircled by “doughnuts of mist”. Close up, it is yet more awe-inspiring, said Mark Stratton in The Sunday Times. Its vegetation is amazingly varied (some claim it was Herodotus’s Garden of Hesperides); its peaks are studded with strange rock formations, and their “dark volcanic flanks” are scored with yawning ravines. 

No less “fierce” are the island’s beaches, their black pebbles raked by the tide “as noisily as shaken ball bearings”. Their harshness has protected the island from mass tourism: people don’t come here to sunbathe, but to walk, especially off season, when the landscape is at its greenest. 

The ferry docks at the capital, San Sebastián, which Columbus visited in 1492. On a week-long trip with On Foot Holidays, you’re driven from there to the village of Hermigua, where the hiking begins, with nights at a series of hotels around the island and luggage transfers booked in advance. One of the loveliest stops is the mountain town of Vallehermoso. There’s a good hotel, the Añaterve, in a “cubist-looking mansion” overlooking the plaza, where you can sit in the evenings with a glass of gomerón (a “honeyed” aperitif) and watch local life go by.

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The landscape is ever-changing. One hour you are crossing a ravine “rampant” with fruit trees (bananas, papayas, dates, figs, avocados); the next, “toiling through desert in dry gullies of prickly pear”. Vines flourish on lava terraces piled up like ancient ziggurats, and high in the misty mountains grow La Gomera’s laurel forests – the island’s most distinctive ecosystem, where the ancient trees, with their “trailing beards of lichen and mossy trunks” might remind you of the “wildwood fragments” of Britain’s own Atlantic shores. 

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